Cruise ship corridors can be an anonymous slog for
passengers trekking back and forth from their cabins to public areas on the
ship, but some doors on some ships stand out from the crowd.
Those are the doors that have been decorated in some way by
passengers looking to conjure some personality for their portal.
A display of Dutch pride decorated a door on the inaugural voyage of Holland America Line's Nieuw Statendam ship in 2018. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
But at least one cruise line has decided to halt the
practice, citing safety concerns. Starting in August, Norwegian Cruise Line
began implementing a ban on stateroom door decorations on its ships.
"We have often communicated that the safety and
security of our guests and crew is always of the utmost importance"
Norwegian said in a statement on the new policy. "As such, we have
specific requirements in place, including prohibiting stateroom door
decorations, which can be a fire hazard."
In fact, however, if door decorations are indeed a problem,
there is no industry consensus on how to deal with it. One brand, Carnival
Cruise Line, allows door decorations but specifies that they must be
flame-retardant. Another, Royal Caribbean International, regulates the content
for appropriateness but not the fire safety of the materials.
Several cruise lines caution that materials used to affix
decorations to the door should not damage the door, discolor it or be hard to
remove. String lights are another prohibited decoration on Carnival, while
over-the-door hanging rigs and items placed on the door frame rather than on
the door are also disallowed.
So far, travel advisors say, regulations have not stifled
the urge to decorate, at least on those cruise lines that have a culture of
There's general agreement that Disney Cruise Line and
Carnival are among the lines with the most decorated doors.
Jessica Kara, a self-described door-decorating junkie and
vacation planner at Lawler Classic Travel in Winchester, Va., said Norwegian's
decision probably won't affect her choosing the line for a cruise.
"I don't think it is really part of the NCL cruise
experience like it is on Disney," Kara said.
Advisors said clients have been decorating doors for as long
as cruise ships have been sailing, for a variety of reasons.
"I do have clients who will do this," said Beth
Chaffin, an agent at Expedia CruiseShipCenters in New Albany, Ind.
Celebrations such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or
honeymoons are often an occasion for door decorations. Other cruise passengers like to contribute
their own good wishes on those occasions, Chaffin said.
Door decorations also help groups traveling together to
recognize and bond with others in the group. Chaffin said she often travels
with girls' junior volleyball teams and likes to post the girls' names with
decorations beside them.
"It's really fun, and it really just sets a fun
atmosphere in the hallway," Chaffin said. "Like when you walk by that
and you see that, even when you're an outsider, you kind of know that something
fun is going on or that somebody's celebrating. Other decorators like to
highlight that they're part of a couple or a family, that they support a
favorite sports team, that they have pride in their city or their national
heritage or simply that they revel in the joys of cruising."
Some cruise lines are complicit in door decor, selling kits
that guests can use to liven up their cabin doors and interiors. Disney Cruise
Line sells magnets in its gift shop, although it cautions that the Concierge
cabins on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy have wooden doors.
Kara also said that door decorations facilitate a Disney
tradition in which some guests swap small gifts with others that are left in
pocket holders called "Fish Extenders" because they hang from a fish
decorating the room number on Disney ships.
"The hanger and the magnets help identify people who
are participating in the gift swaps," Kara said.
Cruise-themed door decorations are available from outside
vendors such as Amazon.com, Party City and Etsy.
Chaffin said many agents spring for a Celebration Package to
surprise a client marking a special event. She said she has one such client departing
later this month, "and she will have birthday decorations on her Carnival
Chaffin added that something would be lost if door decor got
regulated out of the cruise experience.
"I think it's going to hurt a little bit," she
said, "because you're breaking off some of the community feel that you get
being in a hallway with someone on a cruise ship."
She also said it would factor into her choice of cruise
"If I have a group that I think is fun and zany, I may
send them more toward Carnival or Royal just because they do have that kit that
you can add on, and they do allow you to do that," she said. "So that
definitely would put a change in how we are sending people, if they're having a
celebration or want to celebrate by decorating as a group."
Brenda Punchak, owner of Cruise Time Plus in Allentown, Pa.,
likes to keep it simple.
"When I take a group, a lot of times I take their
picture and actually put it on their door," Punchak said. "Everybody
is so excited when they see their face on the door."
And for those who don't want anyone to know where they are,
a picture is easy to take down.
Punchak said she's been on some 70 cruises, and the fun of
door decor is part of what appeals to her clients.
"I think it's sad that [Norwegian wants] to do away
with that," she said. "People love seeing their face on the door. The
cruise lines keep building more and more ships, and then they keep taking away
more and more things that made the industry wonderful."